An alternate three Rs for the 21st century?

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While the traditional three Rs (reading, writing & arithmetic) were only aimed at the students, these alternate three Rs would serve as an operating system for the whole learning community; students, staff, parents and the wider community.

Relationships – Humans are social beings and as such positive relationships are key to human flourishing. As well as nurturing the skills to develop positive inter-personal relationships, we also need to see the relationship between who we are, what we do, the impact of our actions and how we react emotionally. To be able to do this, we need to be given the opportunity to reflect.

Reflection – We are living in the most stimulating time in history. Having hundreds of TV channels to choose from, social media updates to keep on top of, smartphones buzzing in our pockets we have become enslaved to the technology. We feel guilty if we have any spare time on our hands and as such, we find something to do… like updating your Facebook status to say “just chilling out on the beach.” We have created a world in which we see little value in reflecting on the What, Why and How of our experiences. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to say, “Nothin” when asked, “What did you do at school today?”

Resilience – The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030 depression will be the largest cause of illness in the Western World. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and serves as a protective factor against depression. It has become something of a buzzword at the moment in education. Whilst schools do a good job of promoting physical health (PE/health classes, healthy canteens, no-smoking and OH&S policies etc) I believe schools need to be more proactive in nurturing the mental health of their learning community.

To what extent does, could or should your school/organisation value these alternate three Rs?

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0 Comments on “An alternate three Rs for the 21st century?

  1. Love it Dan!
    1. Positive Relationships are the trump card of well-being.
    2. Reflection is what we need more of! both for students and teachers! Coaching can also offer this reflective space.
    3. Resilience – yes we should be able to teach skills for resilience as well as the 3Rs!

  2. As someone about to embark on the ‘parent-of-a-school-age-child’ journey this is a great piece to help choose a school for ones’ kids. We should be focussing these things as adults not actively engaged in formal learning too – in fact blogging is, for me, a reflective activity. It probably has more value than some of the time I spent gazing at the ceiling daydreaming as a student, too.

  3. HI Dan,
    We explicitly teach resilience in our Year 8 PD program, and I am always energised at that moment when a student realises that they don’t have to feel bad about themselves. BEcause I also teach religion and English to members of the same cohort, I get opportunities every day to reinforce the fact that students can find success if they are prepared to try. At the same time, I find myself needing to reflect on the effectiveness of my lessons when students apply these lessons on some occasions, but not all.
    What this comes down to, is relationships. The best part about my job is that I begin to build a relationship with a student and their family in Year 8, and that process continues for the remainder of their schooling (and beyond in some cases). When they reflect on what they loved about school, they invariably talk about the teachers who nurtured them holistically, and cared about them as people.
    Of course, I’m not about to abandon reading and writing, but how can we hope to prepare students for a world where almost everything is relational, if they’ve never learnt how?

  4. Hi Dan —

    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with your comments (and I use them widely in my pre-service teacher training at UOW), I think it is imperative that you cite the original reference where the three R’s (reflection, resilience and relationships) originally came from:

    Ted talk – Dr Daniel J. Siegel

    Associate Professor Tonia Gray
    Faculty of Education
    University of Wollongong

  5. Hi Tonia,
    I appreciate you taking the time to comment and thanks for posting the link to Dan Siegel’s talk as as I came to the 3 Rs without having seen this talk.
    I spent 3 weeks in America at the end of last year with Jane Gilham and graduates from UPENN where we were looking at what underpins the principles of positive psychology and how that could be applied to education.
    I love the fact that you deliver this message to your pre-service teachers as it can only serve them (and the kids they will teach) well.
    If your PDH students need a placement school I’d be happy to try and help accomodate them (although I am based in Sydney).

  6. Hi Dan–

    Thanks for the clarification about how you arrived at the three R’s. There is also an outstanding educator (Dr Ian Boyle – at The Scots College, Glengarry) doing exactly the same thing as you with his Year 9 boys in an outdoor education setting.

    Definitely would love to send some pre-service teachers your way — maybe easier to communicate via email ( to line this up.

    Look forward to further dialogue.

    Warmest regards

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